Every time you shuffle through a line at the pharmacy, every time you try to get comfortable in those awkward doctor’s office chairs, every time you scroll through the web while you’re put on hold with a question about your medical bill, take a second to think about the person ahead of you and behind you.
Chances are, at least one of you is being monitored by a third party like data analytics giant Optum, which is owned by UnitedHealth Group, Inc. Since 1993, it’s captured medical data—lab results, diagnoses, prescriptions, and more—from 150 million Americans. That’s almost half of the U.S. population.
“They’re the ones that are tapping the data. They’re in there. I can’t remove them from my own health insurance contracts. So I’m stuck. It’s just part of the system,” says Joel Winston, an attorney who specializes in privacy and data protection law.
Healthcare providers can legally sell their data to a now-dizzyingly vast spread of companies, who can use it to make decisions, from designing new drugs to pricing your insurance rates to developing highly targeted advertising.
It’s written in the fine print: You don’t own your medical records. Well, except if you live in New Hampshire. It’s the only state that mandates its residents own their medical data. In 21 states, the law explicitly says that healthcare providers own these records, not patients. In the rest of the country, it’s up in the air.
Every time you visit a doctor or a pharmacy, your record grows. The details can be colorful: Using sources like Milliman’s IntelliScript and ExamOne’s ScriptCheck, a fuller picture of you emerges. Your interactions with the health are system, your medical payments, your prescription drug purchase history. And the market for the data is surging.
The Daily Beast | This Fusion Technology Could Make Clean Energy Drastically Cheaper
The most ambitious clean energy option — fusion, a lesser-known type of nuclear power that could one day put a near-limitless supply of electricity on the grid — has faced one big problem for years: It's expensive.
The research is expensive. The logistics are expensive. The materials are expensive. But that might be changing, thanks to scientists who are figuring out how to tweak complex magnetic fields.
A recent paper published in Nature Physics chronicles how a team of scientists working at KSTAR in South Korea figured out how to predict and calm down explosive bursts called “edge-localized modes.” Left wild, these modes can get big enough to cause permanent damage to the reactor.
“It was a big surprise to everybody,” first author Jong-Kyu Park, a researcher at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL), told The Daily Beast. “When we validated this method with such high accuracy, it was really unprecedented.”
Park said the future of fusion power — which hangs on the highly-anticipated International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) under construction in France — depends on this ability to control these solar flare-like bursts of energy.
A reactor is, after all, essentially an artificial star. Like the sun, it runs on continuous fusion reactions fueled by plasma, a super high-energy, charged gas that can run up to 200 million degrees Celsius. This plasma on earth can erupt in in fast, filament-like bursts of energy, just like solar flares. They're notoriously unstable. That's bad news for any potential buyer of a fusion reactor: damage requires maintenance.
“It's absolutely necessary. We believe so,” Park said.
Forbes / MarketWatch / Next Avenue | Artificial Intelligence That Helps Doctors Predict When Patients Will Die
Forbes / MarketWatch / Next Avenue. | Web Story (Forbes). January 3, 2019. | Web Story (MarketWatch). January 17, 2019. | Web Story (Next Avenue). January 3, 2019.
Our final days are difficult because they are infused with uncertainty: We don't know which meal, conversation, embrace or even goodbye will be our last. This is felt perhaps most acutely by those who live with a terminal illness. For these patients, death will come soon — but not right away.
Advance care planning — which often begins with a simple, structured conversation — can help patients make decisions and settle what will be done ahead of time, relieving some of chaos and confusion that accompanies end-of-life care. But knowing when to begin this step can be difficult: Families and even doctors can be so optimistic about a loved one's future that a patient can miss the chance to make wishes clear.
Dr. Stephanie Harman, the clinical chief of palliative care at Stanford Health Care, is leading a pilot program at Stanford Medicine that explores the potential for artificial intelligence (AI) to help doctors guide patients through these decisions. Though the tool isn't designed to predict a specific time of death — it doesn't give a precise number of months or years — the predictive analytics model identifies patients who have a high probability of dying in three to 12 months. One day this type of model might transform clinical care. Death is notoriously difficult to predict — at great costs to the health care system and, of course, anyone with a loved one nearing the end of life.
"[Doctors are] terrible at predicting prognosis," said Harman. "If that information is there [from AI], hopefully that raises the likelihood that the care this patient receives from their health care team matches what they have prioritized. To have care that aligns with what matters most to patients and families — that's the ultimate goal."
Mental Floss | That Sugar Rush Is All In Your Head
We've all heard of the "sugar rush." It's a vision that prompts parents and even teachers to snatch candy away from kids, fearing they'll soon be bouncing off the walls, wired and hyperactive. It’s a myth American culture has clung to for decades—and these days, it’s not just a kid thing. Adults are wary of sugar, too. Some of this fear is warranted—diabetes, the obesity epidemic—but the truth is, sugar doesn't cause hyperactivity. Its impact on the body isn’t an up-and-down thing. The science is clear: There is no "sugar rush.”
To find out how and why the myth started, we need to go back to well before the first World War—then pay a visit to the 1970s.
According to cultural historian Samira Kawash, America has had a long, complex, love-hate relationship with sugar. In Candy: A Century of Panic and Pleasure, Kawash traces the turn from candy-as-treat to candy-as-food in the early 20th century. At that time, the dietary recommendations from scientists included a mix of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, with sugar as essential for energy.
Not everyone was on board: The temperance movement, for example, pushed the idea that sugar caused an intoxication similar to alcohol, making candy-eaters sluggish, loopy, and overstimulated. In 1907, the chief of the Philadelphia Bureau of Health estimated that the "appetite" for candy and alcohol were "one and the same," Kawash writes. On the flip side, other scientists suggested that sugar from candy could stave off cravings for alcohol—a suggestion that candymakers then used in their advertisements.
While the debate about sugar as an energy source raged in America, militaries around the world were also exploring sugar as energy for soldiers.
Fast Company | Old-School Silicon Could Bring Quantum Computing to the Masses
The path forward in quantum computing is unclear, but for big governments and a range of companies, the destination isn’t: quantum advantage, or quantum supremacy, the point at which a quantum computer can outperform a classical computer at a particular task.
Qubits, or quantum bits, are exponentially more powerful than the bits of classical computing. A bit is either “0” or “1.” But a qubit—based on the spin of an electron for instance—can be both states at the same time. One of quantum’s quirks is it effectively allows a system to compute problems with a vast multitude of different outcomes. The problems include everything from encryption-breaking and taxi routing to neuromorphic computing and molecule modeling. Some industries could experience “exponential speedups,” according to a recent commentary in Science.
But it’s early days. Even IBM, a pioneer of quantum information theory, already appears to be weary of the “hype.” Of course, it’s eager to commercialize the technology, too: Like Rigetti and D-Wave, it recently opened up its cloud-based resources to startups worldwide.
But there are still significant hurdles, says Jim Clarke, Intel’s director of quantum hardware. “There are real serious problems, both at the scientific and engineering level, that need to be overcome before we can scale this up.”
Forbes / MarketWatch / Next Avenue | How Drone Ambulances Can Help in Rural Health Emergencies
Forbes / MarketWatch / Next Avenue. | Web Story (Forbes). October 16, 2018. | Web Story (MarketWatch). October 30, 2018. | Web Story (Next Avenue). October 16, 2018.
Remoteness is what makes family worry about us. It’s true at any age — from a daughter who sets off on a weekend hike into the deep woods to a couple who chooses to age in place in the country with only deer, songbirds and cicadas to keep them company.
But what happens when disaster strikes? According to a recent analysis of over 1.8 million 911 calls, callers in rural areas wait twice as long for an ambulance (on average) than elsewhere. That’s a 13-minute wait in the country vs. a six minute wait in the city or suburbs. Ten percent of folks in rural areas had to wait a full 30 minutes for an ambulance to arrive.
A Mississippi-based team of doctors is working on a telemedicine technology that could get emergency care to rural areas faster. It’s an aerial ambulance: a drone named HiRO, which stands for Health Integrated Rescue Operations. The team is working on how to make the drone simpler and easier to use — easy enough so that people with no medical knowledge can use it, even when they’re in the middle of a crisis situation.
“The inspiration for using drone-based technology [were] individuals [who] could not reach or communicate with their frail, elderly loved ones due to downed power lines and trees,” said Italo Subbarao, an emergency medicine specialist who came up with the idea for HiRO after a severe tornado hit Hattiesburg, Miss. “First responders saw the messages and responded appropriately, but it took time.”
The Daily Beast | Rainforests Are Fast Becoming a Laboratory for Cancer Drugs
The Daily Beast. | Web Story. | September 4, 2018.
It's a quest—a biological prospecting—that depends on carefully-crafted partnerships with national governments, village communities, and local healers.
"The community has to know what we intend to do. They have to permit us to go in there," Soejarto told The Daily Beast. "When you want to sit down with the [traditional] healer, before you ask any questions, you have to ask permission to the healer whether he or she wishes to be interviewed."
An emeritus professor of the College of Pharmacy at the University of Illinois at Chicago, Soejarto recently contributed to a paper with first author Joshua Henkin. It describes two expeditions in Laos during a recent “dry winter season” in Xiengkhouang along with Bolikhamxay, a lowland rain forest recovering from the devastation of past fires and logging. Soejarto's team collected over 200 samples from nearly 100 species in total.
The report found that, based on intel from traditional healers in Laos, six unique plant extracts from six different species “exhibited notable cytotoxicity” against colon cancer.
Five of these plant extracts killed more than half of HT-29 colon cancer cells—a notoriously hard-to-treat cell line (adenocarcinoma).
The Daily Beast | Black Women Suffer From Eating Disorders, Too
That's what happened to Stephanie Covington Armstrong, author of Not All Black Girls Know How to Eat. "Everyone assumed all of the stereotypes: Black girls are more comfortable with our bodies. We like being heavier. We don't develop eating disorders," she told The Daily Beast. "So I could hide in plain sight."
Covington Armstrong's memoir follows her struggle with yo-yo dieting, orthorexia (an obsession with healthy food), starving, and bingeing. "It's like an addict sampling drugs: you do just a little here, a little there, and then eventually they're doing you," she said.
But it took her a long time to seek help.
PBS Next Avenue | Should You Put a Camera in Your Loved One’s Nursing Home Room?
At some point during her stay in the memory care wing of a large, long-term facility in Hamilton Township, N.J., Marie Tykarski started to complain of pain. Getting to the bottom of what happened — understanding how and why she got hurt — took time.
“My mother-in-law was in a state of dementia, so we couldn’t get answers from her,” said Rich Allegretti. “She couldn’t explain anything, except that she hurt.
“I don’t think she knew what hurt, but she knew that she was in severe pain,” he added. “She knew something was wrong, but she couldn’t describe it.”
The family eventually learned that Tykarski fractured her femur. Twice. In three weeks. She shattered the same leg at two fracture sites. Surgeons performed what’s called an open reduction internal fixation procedure, inserting plates and screws.
Craig Hubert, a partner at the law firm Szaferman, Lakind, Blumstein & Blader, took on the case. In 2011, the firm filed a civil suit, alleging neglect. The case was later settled out of court.
“This was a mistake, and quite frankly, if there had been a video camera in that room, after the first fracture, the administration, the nurses and all of the caregivers would have learned from the improper transfer procedure,” Hubert said. He asserted that there’s “a substantial likelihood” that a camera would have prevented Tykarski’s second injury.
Collaborative Journalism Summit | Projects to Fight Disinformation in Elections
Center for Cooperative Media. | Web Story. | May 21, 2018.
In his keynote presentation at the 2018 Collaborative Journalism Summit, Grégoire Lemarchand, the deputy editor in chief and head of social networks at Agence France-Presse, spoke about how American journalists might use lessons learned from CrossCheck, a collaborative verification project, in preparation for this year’s midterm elections.
CrossCheck, a collaboration between 37 partners across France and the United Kingdom, focused on covering “false, misleading, and confusing claims that circulated online” in the 10 weeks before the 2017 French presidential election.
“Participants were under a common sense of public service,” Lemarchand said. In the weeks leading up to the election, he said, the French public’s trust in the media was very low — dangerously low. “There was really a global feeling that the threat of this disinformation is so big and serious that we have to work together. If we allow this information to spiral out of control, we will be left crying, as the public will no longer know what is true. If people cannot trust, then democracy can’t work.”
CrossCheck, which was launched by Jenni Sargent, the managing director of First Draft, wasn’t just limited to newsrooms — journalists were joined by teams at universities, nonprofits and tech companies. Google News Lab in Paris and Facebook gave financial and technical support to the project.
Collaborative Journalism Summit | Mainstream Media Need to Actively Look for Ways to Partner with Ethnic Media
Center for Cooperative Media.| Web Story. | May 20, 2018.
After a quick round of wine, cheese and appetizers in the lobby of Montclair State University’s School of Communication and Media building, the Collaborative Journalism Summit officially began with a keynote presentation and discussion about ethnic media.
Gerson began her talk by defining “ethnic media,” a term that, she emphasized, is “imperfect.” Other related terms include minority media, diaspora media or immigrant media, though none of these terms are universally accepted.
The Daily Beast | The Magnetic Therapy That Could Recover Your Memories
Try to recall a conversation without hearing it in your head. It’s difficult, because sound impacts our memory formation. That’s why we forget the milk at the store, and leave without the one thing we came for: we heard the instructions, but we didn’t really listen.
This cognitive capacity to keep sounds in mind for a short period of time was the focus of a paper published in Neuron by a team at McGill University’s Brain Imaging Centre. The studytested the efficacy of a non-invasive brain therapy called transcranial magnetic stimulation, or TMS. Using a hand-held device placed against the scalp, the researchers positioned the targeted, oscillating pulses (at 5 Hz) into the brain in order to stimulate nerve cells. (The pulses are reportedly not painful.)
The group found some surprising results. TMS seemed to directly improve the working memory of 17 participants in a recall task. Participants were asked to recognize a melody when the order of notes played back was reversed. After TMS treatment, they were able to remember the series of sounds quicker, and more accurately.
The Daily Beast | For People Who Hate Loud Noises, There’s a New Therapy
Imagine sitting next to a bored stranger fidgeting with a pen. The room is silent, except for that pen. Quiet amplifies—it makes everything sound louder. Yet for people who suffer from misophonia, every tap of that pen is louder than a chisel removing tile. The man on the train breathes with more force than a motorcycle. And that co-worker chews gum as if she were a cow in front of a microphone.
Misophonia—an emotional, decreased tolerance to sound—can make some situations feel uncomfortable, or even unbearable: anger, disgust, anxiety, avoidance. But the first trial for the condition, published recently in the Journal of Affective Disorders,claims to have found an effective treatment: cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).
“Despite the high burden of this condition, to date there is no evidence-based treatment available,” first author Arjan Schröder wrote in the abstract. Schröder and a team of Dutch researchers treated 90 patients with CBT for eight group sessions, every other week, and found that CBT was effective for half of the patients. What’s more, patients who had more severe symptoms were more likely to respond to treatment.
The Daily Beast | So You Might Actually Not Be Allergic to Penicillin
If you say that you’re allergic to penicillin—a narrow-spectrum antibiotic that, for many bacterial infections, is still considered to be a “wonder drug”—your doctor won’t prescribe it. Once you write it on those forms in the waiting room, or tell your pharmacist, “penicillin allergy” becomes part of your permanent medical record.
Yet a growing body of evidence suggests that most people who say they’re allergic to penicillin are, well, wrong. In a recent study published in Journal of Allergy & Clinical Immunology, nearly 90 percent of patients who had “penicillin allergy” listed on their medical charts were found to actually have no such allergy at all.
“There’s this problem—what you could consider an epidemic—of people labeled with unverified penicillin allergy. It’s the number one drug allergy that’s listed in patients’ records,” Dr. Dave Khan, a professor at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and co-author of the study, told The Daily Beast. Over 1 in 10—up to 15 percent—of Americans has a reported penicillin allergy. That’s more than the number of adults in the U.S. who have hay fever (7.8 percent), and the number of children under age three who have food allergies (8.0 percent).
The Daily Beast | HiRO the Drone Will Change Emergency Medical Treatment
The Daily Beast. | Web Story. | December 24, 2017.
Shortly after five o’clock on a Sunday evening in February 2013, a severe EF4 tornado ripped through Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Winds whirling up to 170 mph tore through town, warping what seemed solid and upending the community. A church’s steeple was ripped off, along with roof after roof on main street. A vehicle parked near the baseball stadium was taken up by the twister and spit out near the pitching mound in the middle of the field, according to the storm report.
As soon as he saw the wreckage on TV—homes reduced to rubble, power lines snapped, mangled trees and traffic lights—Dr. Italo Subbarao panicked.
“I remember thinking, 'I can see my grandma’s house,'” he recalled. “'But an ambulance can’t get out there!'”
That his grandmother was remote and isolated from emergency help ignited worry within Subbarao, an osteopathic physician specializing in emergency care.
So he began tinkering with a solution: an aerial ambulance that could fly above the chaos on the ground, with live-saving medical supplies in tow.
Scientific American | Robo Pizzaiolo | Robot Chef Learns to Twirl Pizza Like a Pro: A New Bot Uses Feedback from Sensors to Stretch and Fold Dough
Pizza has a proud history of fueling late-night lab work, and scientists in Naples—an Italian city famous for its slice—have easy access to some of the world's tastiest take-out. But what inspires engineer Bruno Siciliano is not just that first bite so much as how the dish is made.
“Preparing a pizza involves an extraordinary level of agility and dexterity,” says Siciliano, who directs a robotics research group at the University of Naples Federico II. Stretching a deformable object like a lump of dough requires a precise and gentle touch. It is one of the few things humans can handle, but robots cannot—yet.
Siciliano's team has been developing a robot nimble enough to whip up a pizza pie, from kneading dough to stretching it out, adding ingredients and sliding it into the oven. RoDyMan (short for Robotic Dynamic Manipulation) is a five-year project supported by a €2.5-million grant from the European Research Council.
The Tab | Rocket Scientists Calculate the ‘Go Point’ at Princeton’s Undergraduate Women in Physics Conference
Being a woman in science isn’t easy. In most situations, you have to deal with everything that comes with being the only woman in the room. In Hidden Figures, a new film based on the true story of NASA’s female “computers”, Taraji P. Henson depicts this perfectly as legendary mathematician Katherine G. Johnson, who was awarded the Medal of Freedom in 2016 for her contributions to the space program.
Katherine G. Johnson’s calculations got us to the moon — but for many women studying and working in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics), race and gender can be a strong tether. Everyone brings their own assumptions to work. What’s difficult on the daily can be a range of unequal treatment, access, and bias, from micro-aggressions to sexual harassment.
Keystone Crossroads | Amazon Planning 2,500 Hires in N.J. As Part of Overall Expansion
Keystone Crossroads. | Web Story. | February 9, 2017.
Amazon plans to hire 100,000 workers in the next year and a half, with 2,500 of them in New Jersey.
While they are not minimum-wage jobs, the pace of work can be very demanding.
As a business, shipping is like real estate: Location is everything. That's why Amazon has eight fulfillment centers in Pennsylvania, seven in New Jersey, and two in Delaware to deliver to your door as quickly as possible. But John Carr, a spokesman for the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, said the "free" shipping from Amazon comes at a cost.
"Their performance standards are very, very high. When you meet one, they tend to ... raise that speed and standard of how many orders you can pick and pull and pack in a certain amount of time. And Amazon tracks that," Carr said. "I think a lot of these workers get hurt because of the pace that they have to maintain to meet the goals set by Amazon."
Machinists were behind at least one failed drive to unionize the warehouses. Company spokeswoman Lauren Lynch said Amazon gives warehouse workers the exact same benefits as other employees, including health insurance, retirement plans, paid parental leave, and company stock.
Tiger of the Week: Nancy Rappaport ’82 Debuts ‘Regeneration,’ a One-Woman Show About Surviving Cancer
Princeton Alumni Weekly. | Web Story. | September 28, 2016.
Nancy Rappaport ’82 has devoted her entire career to medicine. A child psychiatrist and associate professor at Harvard Medical School, she’s worked in the Cambridge, Mass., public school system for over two decades. Rappaport says her specialty is “angry teenagers” — and something about her hearty laugh says she doesn’t usually have trouble keeping up.
In August 2015, she was diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer. With three children of her own — one currently in med school — the longtime runner (13 Boston Marathons and counting) says she was stopped in her tracks.
“That transition — going from a doctor to a patient — has really opened me up,” she says. “For me, it was early-stage breast cancer. For other people, it could be a mild heart attack, or a major depression. Those things are relatively common for doctors to manage, but still, it can feel like earth-shattering news.”
Tiger of the Week: Izzy Kasdin ’14, Connecting People With Princeton’s Past
Princeton Alumni Weekly. | Web Story. | August 24, 2016.
Izzy Kasdin ’14 is a proud local. She knows the rhythms of the town and University: how the campus fills and empties each year, marked by a calendar of beginnings, breaks, Reunions, and departures. She grew up in Princeton.
At 14, Kasdin began volunteering as a docent with the Princeton Historical Society, a non-profit committed to sharing its own sense of the “local.” In January, the organization named Kasdin as its new executive director.
“It was a complete shock,” Kasdin remembers. She says although she didn’t formally apply to the position, her return to Princeton “makes perfect sense.”
It was the Historical Society, after all, that first introduced her to the field of museum curation and preservation. As a teen, her first task was to greet visitors at the door. Then, in 2008, the Historical Society organized an exhibition about political participation and activism. At the closing of the exhibit, Kasdin remembers taking the time to carefully pack up a women’s suffrage banner.
Tiger of the Week: Ian Martinez '01, Poetry Slam Champion
Princeton Alumni Weekly. | Web Story. | July 27, 2016.
Fifteen blocks. That’s how far Puerto Rican spoken word poet Ian Martinez ’01 walks every Wednesday, blasting his pump-up playlist through his headphones.
For Martinez, it’s not just a walk through Seattle. It’s a step away from his “white-collar job” at Microsoft, and a step towards the microphone on the intense-yet-intimate stage at Jai Thai on Broadway, home of the Rain City Poetry Slam.
Though he considers himself to be a “real newcomer and rookie,” Martinez is the current Grand Champion of the Rain City Poetry Slam. He earned that title by winning the Rain City slam’s finals in April, which attracted 250 people.
“Spoken word is a unique art form because it combines storytelling, traditional verse, and wordplay,” Martinez says. “Your energy has to match the room’s, and then take it up a notch. If you deliver, and the room gives you back the love you put into the poem, that’s the greatest feeling an artist can have.”
Tiger of the Week: Glenn Shepard ’87, Medical Anthropologist, Ethnobotanist, and Field Researcher
Princeton Alumni Weekly. | Web Story. | July 6, 2016.
Glenn H. Shepard Jr. ’87 has a lush and noisy backyard: Toucans squawk, parrots chatter, monkeys howl. He lives in the middle of the jungle. Settled in Belém, at the mouth of the Amazon, Shepard works as a full-time researcher and ethnology curator at the Goeldi Museum in Belém do Pará, Brazil.
Some might say Shepard lives in paradise. Yet as an ethnobotanist — a researcher interested in how cultures use plants, especially as medicine — Shepard’s work focuses on illness, pain, and stress. Every culture, he says, has found ways to heal.
Shepard is a medical anthropologist who has dedicated himself to the Matsigenka, an indigenous people who live in Manú National Park, an isolated natural wonder deep within the Peruvian rain forest. This June, Shepard’s work was featured in National Geographic: “This Park in Peru Is Nature ‘in Its Full Glory’—With Hunters,” by Emma Harris.
On the Campus: Time to Celebrate | Special Ceremonies Recognize Paths Taken by Graduating Students
The Princeton Hidden Minority Council presented green graduation cords to 33 seniors during a ceremony May 15 for first-generation and low-income students. About 55 people attended the event in the Carl A. Fields Center. Speakers included council co-founders Brittney Watkins ’16 and Dallas Nan ’16 and management consultant Jeremy White ’96, who gave the keynote address.
About 600 people attended the Pan-African Graduation May 29 in Richardson Auditorium. Tennille Haynes, director of the Fields Center, said the event recognized students’ “hardships and their struggles. With sit-ins and protests, our students have been creative in finding ways to be heard.” Seniors Aisha Oxley and Kujegi Camara performed a spoken-word poem about learning to stand up for their identities as students of color.
The final scene of Stephanie Leotsakos ’16’s chamber opera, OMG, opens with a World War II veteran clasping an amulet to his heart, weeping about the memory of his mother, Anna. His daughter, Anna Francesca, walks into the room, distracted by her cellphone. Her Snapchats and emojis are projected onto the screen behind the stage; for a moment, the only music is the sound of screen swipes and texting. Then Anna looks up — and she sees her father crying. “OMG,” she sings, and drops her phone.
OMG, Leotsakos’ senior-thesis opera, premiered April 23 in Taplin Auditorium. The 51-minute production featured eight singers and 10 musicians. The story opens in A.D. 550 near the Church of San Vitale in Ravenna, Italy; over six scenes, it moves toward the present day.
“OMG is by far the most complex thing I have ever created,” said Leotsakos, who learned the violin at 3, the piano at 4, and the viola at 9. She started composing two years ago.
Philadelphia Business Journal | Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory’s $94M Upgrade to World’s Most Powerful Fusion Experiment
Philadelphia Business Journal. Web Story. May 23, 2016.
The Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) just celebrated a milestone in its research on fusion energy. After nearly four years of round-the-clock work by 250 people, the PPPL completed a $94 million upgrade to its flagship fusion facility, the National Spherical Torus Experiment (NSTX-U).
Department of Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz donned a white hard hat to tour the NSTX-U's test cell facility and the 85-ton machine at the center.
The NSTX-U is a fusion energy experiment contained in a spherical tokamak reactor. This design is an apple-core shape that requires less energy than traditional tokamaks, which are bulkier (and often more expensive to operate).
Like the sun, the NSTX-U is powered by fusion.
Tiger of the Week: Theater Director Lileana Blain-Cruz ’06 Brings Branden Jacobs-Jenkins ’06’s ‘War’ to Lincoln Center
Princeton Alumni Weekly. | Web Story. | May 11, 2016.
War, a new play directed by Lileana Blain-Cruz ’06 and written by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins ’06, premiered May 21 in New York at Lincoln Center’s Claire Tow Theater. It’s a story about family battles: Siblings Tate (Chris Myers) and Joanne’s (Rachel Nicks) relationship turns combative when their mother (Charlayne Woodard) has a stroke, and an inheritance is in limbo.
As director and playwright, Blain-Cruz and Jacobs-Jenkins are creative siblings, so to speak: They have supported one another for nearly a decade.
“Branden and I met as classmates,” says Blain-Cruz, a Yale M.F.A. grad who directed War’s world premiere at the Yale Repertory Theater last year. “We’ve each seen almost everything the other has done. And this play — a huge play about family and history — felt like the right piece for us to work on together.”
Tiger of the Week: Textile Artist Diana Weymar '91 Brings Her Craft to Princeton
Princeton Alumni Weekly. | Web Story. | April 20, 2016.
This spring, Diana Weymar ’91, a textile artist and curator based in Victoria, British Columbia, returned to Princeton. A mother of four, she left the view from her studio desk — a Blue Heron nest, grazing deer, a salty waft settling in, blocks from the ocean — to be the Anne Reeves Artist-in-Residence at the Arts Council of Princeton.
Weymar’s collaborative sewing project, “Interwoven Stories,” seeks to stich the Princeton community together.
“This project asks participants to stitch a page — and some are spending months on it — to then contribute to the community,” Weymar says. This spring, she led sewing workshops and handed out nearly 230 blank “pages” at the Princeton Public Library.
“So often we make something of importance or value to us and then keep or sell it,” she continues. “It’s a risk for some, and second nature to others. Each person has a different reaction to the blank fabric page.”
Tiger of the Week: Lauret Savoy '81, Earth Scientist, Map Reader, 'Memory Tracer'
Princeton Alumni Weekly. | Web Story. | March 30, 2016.
This is how Savoy, a professor of environmental studies and geology at Mount Holyoke College, describes the beloved map she’s carried for years — a large, “creased, taped, and re-taped” roll she’s unfurled on every cross-country trip since Princeton, “since that day in college when Professor Judson handed out copies to his geomorphology class.”
Savoy’s map, as she recalls in Trace’s fifth chapter, “What’s in a Name,” is a hand-drawn and inked copy by “master cartographer-artist” Erwin Raisz. It’s also something she “reads” — which suggests that Savoy sees her map as something more than the shaded, textured terrain of “physiographic landforms”; her map, like Trace, is a text.
The #BarefacedBeauty Campaign Wants Women to Go Make Up Free
Barefaced and Beautiful — what a concept. On Monday, in conjunction with National Eating Disorders Awareness Week (#NEDAwareness), the Renfrew Center Foundation is asking women to go “make-up free” for a day — something that might seem like no big deal. But there’s a small catch. The Renfrew Center, which is based in Philadelphia and has treated more than 65,000 women with eating disorders in its 30-year history, is asking women to take one more step: to post a make-up free, “untouched” selfie, and to share it with the world, using the the hashtag #barefacedbeauty.
According to this campaign, girls who decide to go with this “no-makeup look” are making a big statement. But is this a radical idea, really? And is this a new thing?
If this barefaced and beautiful idea sounds familiar, it’s because — well, it kind of is. This is the fifth year of Renfrew’s annual Barefaced and Beautiful campaign. Even former Princeton Prof. Melissa Harris-Perry posted her own selfie sans make-up on MSNBC, in a piece titled “The Naked Truth About Body Image.”
Tigers of the Week: From Triangle Club to Love Triangle, Playwrights Scott Elmegreen ’07 and Drew Fornarola ’06 Debut Off-Broadway Play
Princeton Alumni Weekly. | Web Story. | February 24, 2016.
The pair met at Theatre Intime and the Princeton Triangle Club in the fall of 2003.
“Triangle is a pre-professional kind of experience,” said Fornarola before a Thursday night performance of Straight in New York. “It’s as close to what it’s like to do a show here as I imagine most people could have in college.
“You’ve got a creative team. You’ve got investors that you present a show to, and they give you feedback. You’ve got audiences to think about. It’s a big budget show on a big stage. The chance to do that twice a year is second to none.”
Tiger of the Week: Nushelle de Silva '11, Building Bridges in Sri Lanka
Princeton Alumni Weekly. | Web Story. | January 27, 2016.
Nushelle de Silva ’11 grew up in Sri Lanka. In 1983, before she was born, the country erupted in what would be a 25-year civil war.
“My parents, who were fairly young at the time, saw the horrific violence that erupted on the streets,” she says. Then, she pauses. “I don’t want to provide details that run the risk of flattening what was a very complex conflict.”
Sri Lanka is a country that de Silva’s parents left and returned to — despite the civil war. After a stint in Sydney, Australia, where Nushelle was born, the family moved to Colombo, the southwestern capital, when she was 7.
In 2004, during a ceasefire, de Silva’s K-12 all-girls’ school visited a sister school in Jaffna, the country’s northernmost city. “It had a huge impact on me as a young girl,” she remembers.
Princeton Echo | Heart in Princeton, Head in the Clouds
Michael Lemonick has marked many seasons in Princeton. He was born and raised here. He’s watched the winter turn to spring year after year. And when he talks about the weather, it’s not small talk.
For three decades, Lemonick has been one of the nation’s eminent science writers, notably for Time Magazine, for which he wrote more than 50 cover stories. In November, he became the opinion editor at Scientific American. And in between, he spent seven years as the senior science writer at Climate Central, the Palmer Square-based nonprofit, nonpartisan research and media organization that employs climate scientists, researchers, fellows, and journalists.
Lemonick knows it’s been a warmer winter. But, he says, that doesn’t mean we should assume this year’s milder temperatures are due to climate change — especially since last year’s winter was quite cold.
“The fact that it’s warmer this year than last year? No. That has nothing to do with climate change,” he says. “The fact that, on average, it’s warmer in every state in the winter than it was in 1900, and that it’s been steadily rising? Yes, that has everything to do with climate change.”
Tiger of the Week: David Zabel ’88, Television Writer, Producer, and Co-Creator of ‘Mercy Street’
Princeton Alumni Weekly. | Web Story. | December 16, 2015.
On Dec. 7, in front of a full-house audience of star-struck undergraduates and artsy locals, David Zabel ’88 spoke from a stage that supported the early days of his career — literally. It was at 185 Nassau, the longtime home of the arts at Princeton, that he spent hours and hours at late-night rehearsals and intensive writing workshops.
Once he discovered the theater at Princeton, Zabel said, his other interests (history, for example) quietly faded away. It snapped his future into focus.
“I was interested in a bunch of different things,” he said. “It was just theater that embraced me — earliest and most fully.”
Zabel is now an award-winning television writer, producer, and director. He wrote more than 45 episodes of ER, the medical series on NBC. He was the showrunner of ER for the program’s final five years, and he was also the showrunner and executive producer of Detroit 1-8-7 and Betrayal (both on ABC).
Tiger of the Week: Daniel Velasco ’13, Teach for America Alum and Charter School Mentor Teacher
Princeton Alumni Weekly. | Web Story. | November 18, 2015.
Outside Daniel Velasco ’13’s classroom window at the 21st Century Charter School in Gary, Ind., stands an abandoned building with boarded up windows. But the view doesn’t bother Velasco — his focus is on his students, not his surroundings.
“I absolutely love all of my students, even those that make me want to pull my hair out,” Velasco said with a chuckle. “The greatest lesson I have learned from them is patience.”
This is Velasco’s third year at the charter school. During his first two, he taught full time as a Teach for America fellow. Velasco taught AP United States history, AP world history, economics, government, and world history. He has also tried to build relationships with his students, and to connect with them as a mentor.
“When I teach my kids, stay after school with them, and host tutoring sessions during breaks, I think about the teachers that did that for me,” he said.
Princeton Echo | Award-Winning Poet Tracy K. Smith is Living 'the Good Life’ in Princeton
On a windy night in September, Tracy K. Smith — cloaked in an elegant gray frock that was wrapped in a mysteriously tidy way, as if by magic — was the picture of a professor. A sea of eager undergraduates set their phones to “silent” and tucked their pea coats, book bags and pumpkin spice lattes under their seats. Alone in the front row, Smith sat quietly, listened intently. And then, as if lit by a lamp from within, she warmed up, smiled and walked to the podium.
Smith, a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, memoirist, and professor of creative writing at Princeton University, had been invited to be the keynote speaker for the Princeton University Women’s Mentorship Program’s annual kick-off event. Under the gothic chandeliers of Mathey College’s Common Room, Smith unfolded her notes and began.
“In my first years as a teacher,” Smith said from the podium, “I wanted to feel solidarity with my students. So, I completed the assignments I gave them. I wrote what they wrote.”
Tiger Of The Week: Publishing Veteran John Oakes ’83
Princeton Alumni Weekly. | Web Story. | October 28, 2015.
In September, John Oakes ’83, a veteran book publisher based in New York, returned to the Princeton campus for “Careers Beyond Wall Street,” a panel sponsored by Princeton Progressives. He described a shrinking industry that is, well, still stuck in the Stone Age.
“I think going into book publishing — certainly the traditional side of it — is tantamount to apprenticing yourself to a potter. Or a stone carver,” he said.
Book publishing is “quaint, time-consuming, frustrating, and occasionally thrilling,” he said — and it’s in the midst of a massive transformation.
As the co-publisher at OR Books, an independent press that sells e-books and paperback books direct to readers, and prints on demand, Oakes is shaping that transformation, one book at a time. In the coming year, Oakes also plans to re-launch The Evergreen Review, a groundbreaking literary magazine, with Editor-in-Chief Dale Peck.
Tiger of the Week: Documentary Filmmaker Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi ’00
Meru, a Sundance Audience Award-winning white-knuckler of a documentary, follows three elite mountain climbers on their quest to conquer the 21,000-foot summit of Mount Meru, the most technically difficult peak in the Himalayas. It’s a death-defying expedition into sub-zero temperatures that involves extraordinary risks.
But the mission that climbers Conrad Anker, Renan Ozturk, and Jimmy Chin share is not only physically grueling; it’s emotional. Meru tests their friendship, and their relationships with their families back home.
No one knows this better than Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi ’00, who co-directed and co-produced the film with Chin. The directors fell in love through the making of Meru, and they married in 2013. Now, they split their time between the Upper East Side of New York City and the big blue skies of Jackson Hole, Wyo.
Tiger of the Week: Allegra Wiprud ’14, Conservation Leader
Princeton Alumni Weekly. | Web Story. | September 30, 2015.
Allegra “Lovejoy” Wiprud ’14 gets emotional when she recalls her first land stewardship trip at the D&R Greenway Land Trust, an 18,000-acre land preservation and conservation nonprofit. It was an invasive species removal job in Hopewell, N.J. That day, the dangerous plant that her team tracked down, cut back, and destroyed — the climbing growth that covered, choked, and threatened to kill a tree — was English ivy (Hedera helix).
Perched on a picnic table outside the Johnson Education Center, a historic barn overlooking Greenway Meadows, Wiprud mimes how she removed the ivy, grabbing the vine with her hands as if it were a snake coiled around her neck. By clearing the ivy away, she says, “We can give the tree its life back.”
Ivy might look quintessentially Princeton, but as Wiprud is learning, the non-native plant climbs and grows so fast that it smothers other plants and starves trees of sunlight.
Tiger of the Week: Patrick Ryan ’68, Gallery Director
Princeton Alumni Weekly.| Web Story. | August 26, 2015.
Patrick Ryan ’68 doesn’t do “art speak.” But he does know how to command the stage at an auction, rattling off antiques and art at break-neck speed to the highest bidder. Last Saturday, at the historic Benjamin Temple house and dairy farm in Ewing, N.J., where he was born and raised, Ryan auctioned off more than 80 items in 2 1/2 hours under a blazing hot sun — all for charity, to support the Ewing Township Historic Preservation Society.
Ryan has led a life of talking fast and moving faster. A long-time art collector and gallery owner, Ryan is just as comfortable in overalls and work boots as in seersucker shorts and a polo shirt.
He reckons he somehow “inherited the Irish gypsy gene,” a drive that rattled against the quiet rituals of his father’s 166-acre dairy farm: rising at 4:30 a.m. to milk 50 cows, twice per day. “The cows don’t care if it’s Christmas,” he remembers.
Tiger of the Week: Keyboardist Gavin Black ’79
Princeton Alumni Weekly.| Web Story.| August 12, 2015.
Gavin Black ’79 has devoted his entire adult life to studying, performing, teaching, and recording 17th- and 18th-century keyboard music. But he knows that studying Baroque music on antique instruments isn’t an easy sell.
“The harpsichord is not remotely as popular as the piano,” he laughs from a bench at the Princeton Early Keyboard Center, the non-profit music studio he founded in 2001. It offers harpsichord, clavichord, and organ lessons for students, composers, and group classes.
Black discovered the organ and harpsichord at age 14, after a stint taking piano lessons left him curious about Baroque music.
As a freshman at Princeton, he would practice the organ alone in the vast and empty University Chapel, lit only by moonlight, courtesy of a special access key.
Princeton Echo | Classics You Can't Refuse: Garden Theatre Hooks Princeton in Throwback Hollywood Film Series
Megan Connor is a budding film buff. She's headed to the New York Film Academy this fall, and she's also a member of the nonprofit Princeton Garden Theatre on Nassau Street. She believes in movies. Even older ones. But she’s not convinced that the classics have any bite left — even Jaws.
“Jaws isn’t going to be scarier on the big screen — it’s like 40 years old!” Connor, 18, rolled her eyes with a playful smirk in the lobby of the Garden Theatre on June 25. As a Millennial, Connor was raised on easy, 24/7 access to small screen entertainment. At the Garden Theatre, she's learning to love old movies — but with a filter of ironic nostalgia, because "classic" is cool, and "vintage" is hip.
Planet Princeton | Princeton Resident Michael Dean Morgan Makes His Debut on Broadway in ‘Amazing Grace’
“It’s a popular venue. You just gotta sing clearly for the grandmas in the back.”
In the balcony of the Nederlander Theater on 208 W. 41st St. in New York City, after a Saturday preview matinée, Michael Dean Morgan talks easily over the clatter of mic checks, an active orchestra pit, and a tour below. Even the noise of a yodeling voice warming up backstage doesn’t faze him.